Open your Bibles to Matthew 4:12-17. Let us begin by jumping right into our text. As I stated last Sunday, during this Advent season we will be using Matthew 4 to launch each sermon. So let us read it, pray and then see what God desires to show us in His Word this morning.
- Matthew 4:12-17 - “Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. 13 And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 15 "The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles-- 16 the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned." 17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
My intent last week was for each of you to feel the weight of the darkness of this sinful world, and to recognize that the present darkness that surrounds us is not some childish game of hide and seek, but that it is a foretaste of what is waiting for every man that does not have the light of Christ dawn upon their heart, Hell.
We briefly discussed how this darkness originated in the Garden of Eden, when Adam and Eve chose to reject God’s authority over them, and to instead listen to Satan, the Prince of Darkness. Because of their rejection of God’s Lordship over their life, God withdrew from humanity, and it was plunged into spiritual darkness and live in the shadow of death. Therefore every person that has been born on this planet has been born with a darkened heart into a darkened world. If the Bible was broken into a four part play, the fall man would be Part 1, the domain of darkness.
Today I would like to begin with Part two of this play. If I were to name part 2, I would name it, “A Glimmer of Hope.” I have asked you to do this before here at Cornerstone, but I want you to imagine for a moment the first night that Adam and Eve spent outside the Garden of Eden. This experience would have a completely new for them. They would have no home, no food, no protection. Prior to the fall their sleep would have been easy and peaceful, but those days for Adam and Eve were now over. After they ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, they were cast out of the Garden and separated from the presence of God and were living independent of Him in the midst of the darkness.
We don't know the details of what night one was like, but I want to use your imagination. What would that night look like if it were you? For me it would be a night of shame, brokenness, fear, anxiety, lostness, and tears. Perhaps the first several hours after being cast out of the Garden Adam and Eve just walked in silence. Too devastated to talk. Perhaps due to physical and emotional exhaustion they picked a place so as to try to get some sleep. I can almost picture Adam and Eve clinging to each other, surrounded by the darkness of their new reality; perhaps cold, hungry, worried, and staring off into the pitch black night, and running over in their minds the last 24 hours of their life. For the first time they felt the weight of the darkness, the weight of their sin.
Let me ask you something? Have you had those nights? Have you laid in bed with the world pushing down on you? Broken, lost, afraid, ashamed? I am guessing you have. I know I have. Your mind races with worry and fear and sadness. You try to forget the day, weeks, or months, but you can't. It is like the darkness of the world is pursuing you, crouching at your bed, ready to pounce. For me, some of those dark days are best described as spiritually suffocation. It was as if the darkness was pushing into my chest. In that moment you feel as if there is no hope.
If I were to guess, night one for Adam and Eve was not an easy one. Now imagine, Adam turning to Eve in the middle of the night and saying, “Eve, are you still awake?” Eve says, “Yes, I can't stop thinking about what God said. It keeps ringing in my ears.” Adam responds, “Me too. Eve, did you hear what God said to the Serpent? 'I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.' Who do you think God was talking about?”
The words I just referred to, in that fictional dialogue, are actually found in Genesis 3 when God was pronouncing judgment against the Serpent, Adam and Eve. This seed of Eve, that God declared would crush the head of Satan, was the only glimmer of hope spoken of that day. All other words by God after the fall were words of judgment, except this promise of a future and mysterious seed of Eve, that would be a He, would strike, bruise, crush, gape (Depending on what version you have) the head of the serpent. And likewise in the process of striking the head of the snake would have his heal bruised by the snake. Who is this man? It is none other than Jesus Christ, and this is the first explicit prophecy of a suffering savior who would be victorious over sin and death.
Think about this for a moment. God created Adam and Eve and gave them everything. They rebelled against him and chose to listen to the Devil instead of the Potter. God had every right to banish them to Hell, but he didn't. He punished them, clothed them by the shedding of blood, and gave them hope in Christ. What an amazing God, and what amazing Grace! Despite the world being plunged into a dominion of darkness due to Adam and Eve's rebellion, God still provided a glimmer of Hope.
On Fridays, I meet with Freddie Jones at McDonald’s. We usually get done around 7:00, and sometimes I head into work right away, but sometimes I drive up to the Rotary Lodge in Wapsipinicon State Park to pray and read the Bible. This Friday, I decided to drive up there and spend some time with the Lord, and I walked out into the grass and I looked out upon the River and Trees, and I could barely see them because of a gloomy, gray, ominous fog that had descended upon the country side near Anamosa. It was one of those mornings, when you look out the window, you would rather just go back to bed, for it was just an ugly morning. But off in the distance, through the fog, I could see a light piercing through the gloom, just like what I would imagine a lighthouse would be like, a beacon of Hope. And I thought to myself, what a great picture of night one in the dominion of darkness. God had pronounced judgment and cast them out of his presence due to their sin, and gloom and anguish descended, but off in the distance God places a light. The light of His Son, Jesus Christ.
- John 1:1-5 – “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
When Adam and Eve stepped into the darkness of their sin, Jesus was there. Why? Because Jesus has always been there. He is eternal. He was in the beginning with God and he was God. It was through Christ that Adam and Eve were made. It was through Christ that the Garden was made. It was through Christ that Satan was made. After he made Adam and Eve, He watched them reject God's authority over them. He watched them choose to follow the lies of Satan instead of the truth of God. He watched them chose darkness over light. And this was not surprise to Christ. For nothing surprises God. He is all knowing, all powerful, all present. He is Sovereign God.
From the beginning of time, Jesus knew his role within the Trinity, to be Hope for the helpless. For in Jesus was life, and the life was the light of men. Before the darkness of this world had its beginning the eternal light of Christ was already burning brightly, and in the fullness of time, His light will shine brighter than the sun. However, for Adam and Eve it was merely a glimmer of Hope.
As Redemptive History progresses, this glimmer of hope, the light of Christ comes closer and closer and brighter and brighter as the ages pass. With each passing generation, more rays of His light pierce through the fog and give Hope to those who have faith in God, to those who have faith in the seed of Eve.
This foreshadowing of the Light of Christ is found throughout the Old Testament. I would argue that the light of Christ is seen in the rainbow, whereby light shines through the water of God's wrath. The Light of Christ is seen in Exodus 13 as the pillar of fire that leads Israel by night out of the slavery of Egypt and into the land of milk and honey. The Light of Christ is seen in the God designed tabernacle and the temple in the seven lamps that illumined the Holy Place, the transition between the Courtyard and the Most Holy Place of God. We see the light of Christ more personally in specific prophecies.
- Numbers 24:17 - “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near: a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel; it shall crush the forehead of Moab and break down all the sons of Sheth.”
- Psalm 27:1 - “The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? “
- Isaiah 9:2 - “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness, on them has light shined....for unto us a child is born.”
- Isaiah 58:8 - “Then shall your light break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up speedily; your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.”
- Isaiah 60:1-3 – “Arise, shine, for your light has come, and the glory of the LORD has risen upon you. 2 For behold, darkness shall cover the earth, and thick darkness the peoples; but the LORD will arise upon you, and his glory will be seen upon you. 3 And nations shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. “
- Zechariah 14:7-8“And there shall be a unique day, which is known to the LORD, neither day nor night, but at evening time there shall be light. 8 On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. It shall continue in summer as in winter.“
As the years pass, and the darkness of this world continued to reign, God in his goodness, continued to provide glimmers of Hope. In the midst of gloom, anguish, and shadow of death that loomed over all creation, the light of Christ would stand forth as the beacon of man's hope. As the morning dawn of Christ approached so did his light. Listen to the words of the Father of John the Baptist, Zechariah, when John was born. At this time Jesus would be about three months conceived.
- Luke 1:76-79 - “And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, 77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, 78 because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high 79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace."
- John 1:6-9 - “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.“
Then of course there was the star that camped out over Jesus that lead three random gentiles across the desert so as to worship this young boy. And listen to these words of Simeon, when Jesus was eight days old and presented at the Temple so that he could be circumcised:
- Luke 2:29-32 - “"Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word; 30 for my eyes have seen your salvation 31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, 32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel."
What is the Bible about, you could answer this many ways, but one way is that this book is a testimony of the Light of Christ. This book is a single story bout the Light of Christ conquering darkness. From the first glimmer of Hope that was given by God to Adam and Eve to John the Baptist crying out in the wilderness, it was all about Jesus Christ, the only answer to the darkness. There is no other light.
The first Christmas was about the dawning of light. A light that would lead humanity out of darkness and into the presence of God. All of history, all of creation, had been waiting for this moment, when Jesus wold burst forth upon the scene. It was a reality that made angels sing, Shepherds rejoice, and wise men to travel from afar.
And it was this glimmer of hope that God had given Adam and Eve on their first night in the domain of darkness. So what does this have to do with you? Everything.
In a way, our life story is very similar to the story of the Bible. We were all born into this domain of darkness. Like Adam and Eve we rebelled against God, and deserve God's judgment because we love the darkness, we love to make our own rules, we love to live independent of God. However, this darkness has only produced pain, anxiety, loneliness, lust, brokenness, greed, and lostness.
However, somewhere along the way, God put before you a glimmer of Hope. God proclaimed to you the Light of His Son. Maybe it was your parents reading the Bible to you, or a family in the community bringing you to Church, or someone at work sharing their testimony, or a gideon Bible in some random hotel. Whatever it was, the light of Christ was put before you, and like a moth to the flame, for some unexplainable reason, you were drawn to it, until the light of Christ broke dawn and shown in your heart.
- 2 Corinthians 4:4 - “For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness,"has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.“
If you do, if you chose to stand in the light of Christ, then everything is different.
- Psalm 30:5 - “For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime. Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.“